READING GUIDE: The Holy Longing

Discussion Questions for Individual Reflection or Group Study

Written fifteen years ago, The Holy Longing has become a classic on the topic of spirituality, touching the lives of devout believers and questioning seekers alike. Father Rolheiser isn’t afraid to ask tough questions, and he offers honest, straightforward answers that quickly get to the heart of common difficulties we all encounter as we seek to channel our restlessness and passion into a healthy, vibrant spirituality. If you’re searching for a deeper understanding of Christian spirituality and how it’s relevant to your life, you’ll be both challenged and delighted by this book.

Chapter 1: What Is Spirituality?

Ronald Rolheiser defines “desire” as our fundamental “dis-ease.” Explain some of the ways he describes desire. Which of Rolheiser’s descriptions resonate with you the most?

How would you define “spirituality”? Is it a religious term, or do you see it having a larger application? Do you see yourself as “spiritual”? How does the way you have thought of spirituality differ from the way Rolheiser defines it? How are desire and spirituality related?

What is your reaction to Fr. Rolheiser’s description of Mother Teresa, Janis Joplin, and Princess Diana? How might all three of these women fit the definition of being spiritual?  Describe a key lesson you can learn from each of them.

Rolheiser writes that we all act in ways that leave us healthy or unhealthy, loving or bitter. How has your spirituality shaped your actions up until now?

If you agree with Rolheiser’s definition of a saint being someone who can “channel powerful eros in a creative, life-giving way, what other examples can you cite of someone (either now or in the past) who fits this description, and why?

How do you define a “soul”? How does Fr. Rolheiser define a soul?

What happens within us that causes us to such experience intense struggles at times, according to Rolheiser? Can you share a time when this happened to you? What triggered it, and how did you deal with it?

Explain the difference between a healthy spirituality and an unhealthy spirituality, according to Fr. Rolheiser.


Chapter 2: The Current Struggle with Christian Spirituality

Reflect on these questions, posed by Fr. Rolheiser. Pick the one that speaks most to you and try to answer it.

  • Am I being too hard or too easy on myself?
  • Am I unhappy because I’m missing out on life, or am I unhappy because I’m selfish?
  • Am I too timid and uptight, or should I be more disciplined?
  • Why do I always feel so guilty?
  • What do I do when I’ve betrayed a trust?

Rolheiser says that past societies were more overtly religious than we are today. While they had less trouble believing in God, they also struggled with other things. In what ways do those struggles inform belief in God, and what can we learn from them today?

What is “particularly peculiar” to our own religious, moral, and spiritual struggle? Where do you personally struggle to channel your own spiritual energies?

Fr. Rolheiser lists three struggles that he defines as being unique to our time. What are they?

Past cultures seemed to understand the nature of energy—especially spiritual, erotic energy—better than we do today. Why do you think that, despite our advancements, we are more naïve about the nature of energy? What are some of the results of this naiveté?

Fr. Rolheiser rightly notes that depression is one of contemporary society’s biggest problems. How does he define depression? How would you describe the opposite qualities of depression?

Have you struggled with depression? How has it manifested itself in your life? How have you dealt with it?

Where have you felt delight—the sense of being spontaneously surprised by the goodness and beauty of living? What triggered this for you? How often do you find yourself feeling this way?

What are some of the factors Rolheiser identifies that keep us shallow and prevent us from having real interior depth? What factors especially affect you?

Many today think religion is anti-sex, anti-creative, and anti-enjoyment, while the secular world is seen as full of the opposite. Have you encountered friends or family members who view religion this way? Have you ever struggled with this view yourself?

A growing number of people describe themselves as spiritual but not religious. They want a relationship with God, but they don’t want to be part of an organized church. What social trends encourage this separatist view of God and religion?

Christians are often split between a passion for social justice and a private piety. Where do you find yourself on this spectrum?

In your own life, have you encountered any struggles with being selfless versus being taken advantage of? Describe the situation, and also how you resolved this conflict.

How do we keep moving forward, while at the same time staying realistic, about the unique pressures we face today? How can we creatively channel the erotic, spiritual fire within us in order to enjoy “creative days and restful nights”? How can we experience peace with God, ourselves, and each other?



Chapter 3: The Nonnegotiable Essentials

As Rolheiser says, it’s not an easy matter to live out what is essential to our life of faith. What should we be doing with regards to our faith? Who should we listen to?

What defined someone as a practicing Roman Catholic thirty or forty years ago, and how does this differ from someone who is a practicing Catholic today? Should there be any difference? Why or why not?

List some of the religious baggage that secular society has carried over the years. Discuss some of the effects of these ideas.

What are some of the spiritual voices you hear around you today? How have these voices influenced you, both in good and not-so-good ways? How do you know which voices are the right ones? Which ones are healthy, and which are unhealthy?

The Catholic Church teaches that not all truths are equal. How do you personally distinguish between truths that are essential and those that are accidental? Define what is meant by an essential truth and what is meant by an accidental truth, according to Fr. Rolheiser.

What are the four nonnegotiable pillars of the spiritual life, revealed to us by Jesus Christ? Briefly describe each one. In your own life which of the four pillars are the strongest? Is any pillar missing?

Why is being part of a church community so important? Why can’t the spiritual life be just “Jesus and me”? In your own life, have you struggled with this nonnegotiable? What has been your experience of parish life, both positive and negative?

Reflect on this statement: “How we treat the poor is how we treat God.” Do you agree? Consider they ways you engage with forms of poverty, and how you can strengthen those bonds.

Do you agree with the statement: “Sanctity has to do with gratitude; to be a saint is to be fueled by gratitude”? Do you think it’s possible to be truly saint-like without being grateful? What difference does having a grateful heart make in your day-to-day life?

Rolheiser mentions fasting as a way to stay “warm of heart.” How might fasting accomplish this? Have you had any experience with fasting? If so, what was the outcome?

Bernard Lonergran, one of the great religious intellectuals of the century, attempted to define what constitutes a true religious conversion. He came up with six dimensions. See if you can name them, and then share which of the dimensions are active in your own life. If one or more is missing, why might this be?




Chapter 4: Christ as the Basis for Christian Spirituality

Imagine Jesus himself asking you, as he asked Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” What answer would you give him?

What does Rolheiser mean when he says that the incarnation is “under-understood”?

Scholars have discussed at length what the apostle Paul meant by the term “the Body of Christ.” Did he mean it in a corporate or a corporeal way? What is the difference?

According to Fr. Rolheiser, if it is true that we are the Body of Christ, then God’s presence in the world depends very much upon us. How do you see yourself helping to accomplish this? Share some practical examples.

What difference does it make if you believe in God but not in Jesus? What difference does believing in Jesus make?


Chapter 5: Consequences of the Incarnation for Spirituality

Reflect on the verse at the beginning of this chapter from Matthew 7. Have you experienced times when asking, knocking, and seeking didn’t work? Why do you think God doesn’t always answer our prayers?

Do you agree with Rolheiser that, as part of the Body of Christ, we are meant to be concretely involved in answering our own prayers? Why or why not? Why is sometimes leaving things up to God not a Christian way to pray?

Think of someone you know who is struggling with depression or perhaps some type of illness. In addition to keeping this individual in your prayers, what could you do that would put “skin on” your prayers? How might God console this person through you?

Protestants and Catholics have long disagreed over how our sins are forgiven, with Protestants believing that sincere contrition before God is enough and Catholics emphasizing the need to confess our sins to a priest in the sacrament of confession. Has the way you’ve thought about the forgiveness of sins changed over the years? In what way?

Are there loved ones in your life who no longer share your faith, your values, and your morals? Maybe it’s a child that no longer embraces your faith. Or maybe your spouse no longer believes in God. Do you believe that “your touch is Christ’s touch”? What difference does this belief bring to bear on such uncomfortable situations?

Rolheiser says that spirituality for a Christian should never be an individualistic quest for God outside of community, family, and church. Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?

Explain what is meant by this statement: “The God of the incarnation is more domestic than monastic.”

Rolheiser makes the insightful observation that, up until age forty, genetic endowment is dominant, and so someone who is selfish can still look beautiful. After age forty, though, Rolheiser says that we look like what we believe in. What does your face reveal to you in terms of what you believe?

How does Rolheiser believe a Christian remains in contact, in love, and in community with his or her loved ones that have died? In what ways can you incorporate these views into your own grief?




Chapter 6: A Spirituality of Ecclesiology

In the words of Reginald Bibby, “People aren’t leaving their churches, they just aren’t going to them.” Rolheiser attributes this to indifference and a culture of individualism. Have you observed this in your own life or in the lives of those you associate with? How are some ways the Church can address these issues?

What are some misconceptions people have about what it means to be a church? Of the five misconceptions Fr. Rolheiser identifies, what are some of the dangers of embracing them? Is there a particular misconception that you have encountered in your own spiritual quest? If so, how have you dealt with it?

Fr. Rolheiser says that to be baptized into a Christian church is to be “a consecrated, displaced person.” What does he mean by this? What are the implications of being consecrated to something or somebody, of being “called out of”?

Today many people are unable to see the Church as an instrument of grace due to certain aspects of the Church’s history as well as its present infidelities. How can we forgive the Church for these things?

Rolheiser says that to be “catholic” means to have a heart that is universal, wide, all-encompassing. He says that the spirituality of the church must emphasize wide loyalties and inclusivity. How can the Catholic Church achieve this today without falling prey to an “anything-goes” philosophy?

Fr. Rolheiser lists eight reasons we should go to church. Of these eight reasons, which resonate the most with you, and why?


Chapter 7: A Spirituality of the Paschal Mystery

What is the paschal mystery of Christ? How do we enter that mystery and live it?

What is the difference between terminal death and paschal death? Between resuscitated life and resurrected life? Lastly, what is the difference between life and spirit?

Rolheiser says that the paschal mystery is the secret to life, and that ultimately our happiness depends upon living it out. What does he mean by this? And how can we live out the paschal mystery in our daily lives?

Rolheiser identifies various deaths we need to experience in the course of our lives. He first mentions the death of our youth. In your own life, how have you experienced this? What lessons have you learned?

In talking about the death of our wholeness and the death of our dreams, Rolheiser speaks of the need for an ascension, the need to allow the old to ascend so we can receive something new. In your own life, what are you ready to let ascend? What dreams might you need to let go of? What can you look forward to if you do?

Are you undergoing any relational deaths? Name them here, and recognize and affirm the new relationship that has emerged instead. If a honeymoon period has ended, Rolheiser says God wants to give us something richer and deeper. Where do you see God birthing something new in your life?

Is the God of your youth different from the God you are faced with today? Is there anything you are clinging to that God is nudging you to release so you can recognize the God who walks beside you today?

Henri Nouwen wrote about mourning our deaths and losses, especially when we reach midlife. Why is it important to mourn properly? What hurts, losses, disappointments, or shattered dreams do you need to mourn? Spend some time in quiet reflection and then journal about this.

Rolheiser says it’s necessary to both let go of the old and allow it to bless us. What do you think he means by this? How can you let a painful or abusive experience “bless” you?

Describe your childhood roots. In what ways can your personal roots bless you?


Chapter 8: A Spirituality of Justice and Peacemaking

What does it mean to “act justly,” as Micah 6:8 says? What is Christian charity? How is justice different than private charity?

How can we help alleviate injustice without our actions resembling the violence and unfairness we are trying to change?

Reflect thoughtfully on Fr. Rolheiser’s words about abortion. He comments that too often neither side (those who favor legalized abortion and those who oppose it) acknowledge the deeper, systemic issues that underlie the problem. What are some of those issues, both for and against?

What does Fr. Rolheiser see as the ramifications of justice motivated merely by liberal ideology or indignation at inequality?

How would you define a biblical foundation for social justice? What affirmations does the Book of Genesis provide?

Achieving a more just world order is the goal of many groups, but too often these efforts have not been successful. Rolheiser says this is due to a kind of naivete, and he lists six fallacies that permeate justice and peace groups. Have you encountered any of these fallacies? Do you recognize your own naivete in any of them?

Many of us think of God as a force for redemptive violence—the use of violence to overthrow evil and establish justice and peace. But in effect, what happens is that goodness has now been more violent than evil. What is the difference between redemptive violence and the Christian story of redemption? What is the source of Jesus’s real power? What ultimately brings about justice and peace?

What does God’s power look like? How does it feel to feel as God does in our world? Fr. Rolheiser gives several examples. Which, if any, of them resonate with you? Describe why.

What does Rolheiser mean when he says, “The struggle for justice and peace is not ultimately about winning or losing but about fidelity”? What does fidelity have to do with it?

According to Rolheiser, what are our true weapons in the struggle for justice and peace? Which of these true weapons have you used—and with what results?


Chapter 9: A Spirituality of Sexuality

Define a mature spirituality, according to Fr. Rolheiser, and explain why this is at the center of the spiritual life.

What does a healthy sexuality look like? How can we understand and channel our sexuality correctly? Describe the main elements of a Christian spirituality of sexuality.

Rolheiser makes a critical distinction between sexuality and genitality. Explain in your own words the differences between these two terms.

What did the Greeks mean by the term eros, and how is this different from the typical way the term is understood today?

In your own words, describe how you, as a Christian, define sexuality. Give some examples from your own observations.

List the nonnegotiables Rolheiser says provide the anchor for a healthy Christian spirituality. Do you agree with all of them? Why or why not? Which ones are part of your spirituality?

How can the inner dynamics of sex lead people to sanctity?

How is chastity different than celibacy? What does it mean to be chaste?

Rolheiser says Christians must have the courage to let go of some of its fears and timidities regarding sex and learn instead to celebrate the goodness of sex. What are some ways Christians can celebrate the goodness of sex?

How can we as Christians better understand the times we live in and deal with the issues that result from living in the time between Christ’s resurrection and the end of time?

Instead of letting our restlessness drive us outward to more activity, distraction, etc., how can we turn it into solitude? How does solitude differ from loneliness? Why is solitude beneficial? Discuss the steps that Henri Nouwen suggests.

Do you ever wonder why Christ remained celibate? Rolheiser suggest a better question: What did Christ try to reveal through the way he incarnated himself as a sexual being? What was he trying to teach us?

How was Christ’s celibacy a key element of his solidarity with the poor? Describe how those who aren’t able to experience sexual consumption can be considered poor.


Chapter 10: Sustaining Ourselves in the Spiritual Life

Since it’s not enough to just have knowledge of the truth, how can we sustain ourselves on our long earthly journey? How can we move beyond our fatigue, loneliness, laziness, bitterness, and bad habits so we become gracious, happy, self-sacrificing, generative, mature Christians? Where do you tend to struggle the most?

What practices and exercises are helpful for you as you struggle to live a healthy Christian life in our agnostic, pluralistic, materialistic age?

Rolheiser talks about being a mystic. What does he mean by this, and how can we become mystics in our modern world?

Describe the value of personal prayer in our quest to sustain ourselves spiritually. What is the result of not praying?

How can we fulfill the Scripture, “Pray always”? What does the Bible mean by “pondering” and how can this help us to pray without ceasing?

Fr. Rolheiser says that carrying tension for God’s sake is the mysticism most needed in our day. When everything in our culture tells us to avoid tension, what do you think he meant by this?

What did Martin Luther mean by saying, “Sin boldly!”

What is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, and why does the Bible say it is an eternal sin that can never be forgiven? What does this sin have to do with dishonesty and rationalization?

What is the value of ritual and community? What are some rituals that sustain your daily life?

Rolheiser lists some misconceptions about God that people have had in the past, as well as some evident today. Do you share any of these faulty views of God? How do you see God? How does Rolheiser describe God?


Reading Guide: Jesus the Bridegroom by Brant Pitre

Jesus the Bridegroom: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Brant Pitre – Discussion Questions for Individual Reflection or Group Study

Jesus the Bridegroom is a unique exploration of how Jesus’s suffering and death fulfilled Old Testament prophecies of a divine wedding—the God of the universe forming an everlasting nuptial covenant with his people. As Scott Hahn says: “This book will change you. It is an invitation to experience the sacraments, personal prayer, Scripture study, and marriage. Most of all, it will deepen your love for Christ.” In this book, many familiar passages of the Bible are transformed; when seen in the light of Jewish Scripture and tradition, we begin to see the life of Christ as nothing less than the greatest love story of all time.



In the Bible as well as in Church teaching, there are many references to Christ as the “Bridegroom” and the Church as his “Bride.” What does this mean?

In Ephesians 5, the apostle Paul describes the relationship between a husband and wife. Why does Paul tell wives to “submit” to their husbands? Why don’t husbands have to submit to their wives, but just have to love them? What might the deeper meaning of these verses be—or do you see these words of Paul as chauvinistic and outdated?

In this same chapter of Ephesians, Paul compares the relationship between husbands and wives with Christ and the Church. Paul’s view is that the torture and crucifixion Jesus endured was an expression of spousal love. How do you explain something that sounds so mysterious—even incongruous? How could Jesus’s death be compared to a husband’s love for his wife? How could a brutal crucifixion be compared to a wedding?

If you had been present at the crucifixion and watched Jesus die such a painful death, how would you have described what was happening?

Chapter 1: The Divine Love Story

Today, some modern views of God range from seeing him as the Creator (who may or may not be involved in our daily affairs) to an impersonal “Higher Power” or an invisible “Problem Solver” to be invoked when things are out of control. How do these various contemporary definitions of God differ from the way first-century Jews saw God?

How do you see God? Has your view of who he is changed over the years, and in what ways?

How might seeing God as a “Bridegroom” change the way you relate to him? How would it change the way you view sin? What would be different if you truly saw sin as “spiritual adultery,” the betrayal of a relationship, instead of just “breaking the law” or “missing the mark”?

What does salvation mean to you? Do you see it as just the forgiveness of sins (as wonderful as that is), or do you see salvation as union with God? How would you describe what it means to be in union with God?

After reading this chapter, how has your understanding of the Song of Songs changed or expanded? Why would ancient Jewish tradition identify the bridegroom in the Song of Songs as God?


Chapter 2: Jesus the Bridegroom

If someone asked you to explain who Jesus of Nazareth was, why he lived, and why he died, how would you answer?

When John the Baptist tells his disciples that he is not the Messiah but rather the “friend of the bridegroom,” what do you think his hearers thought? What do you think John expected them to take away from what he said?

How do you typically read the Bible? What might change for you if you began to understand the words of Scripture from their original, first-century Jewish context?

Jesus’s first public miracle was changing water into wine at a wedding (see John 2:1–11). Since Jesus was only a guest at this wedding, why do you think Mary would have mentioned the lack of wine to him?

Why does Jesus address Mary as “Woman” instead of “Mother”? If he wasn’t being disrespectful, why would he have chosen to speak to her that way?

Jesus indicated to Mary that it’s not “his hour.” What could this mean? But then, he performed a miracle anyway. What did he intend his disciples to understand by this sign?

Reflect on this first miracle of Jesus in light of the ancient Jewish expectation of an abundant divine banquet to come. What might Jesus be signaling to those who have eyes to see? What is he revealing about his own divine identity?

How can we begin to see the Last Supper as a wedding banquet? What clues does Jesus provide? How does having knowledge of the Jewish background help us to more fully understand the meaning of the Last Supper?

How does Jesus reveal himself to his disciples as the true Bridegroom?


Chapter 3: The Woman at the Well

How does the Samaritan woman “prefigure” all believers who make up the Bride of Christ?

What is the significance of Jesus’s encounter with the woman at the well taking place at “Jacob’s Well”?

The Samaritans were generally despised by the Jews and thought to be unclean. Why would Jesus engage a Samaritan woman in conversation?

What is the meaning of the conversation between Jesus and the woman at the well? Why do they discuss “living water”?

List some similarities between Jesus’s encounter with the woman at the well and Jacob’s encounter with Rachel. What significance might these similarities have?

What are the various meanings for the phrase “living water” in biblical times? What does Jesus mean by the term?

What is the connection between Jesus’s encounter with the woman at the well and his crucifixion? How does living water come into play here?

St. Augustine wrote that the Samaritan woman “bore the type of the Church.” What do you think he meant by this?


Chapter 4: The Crucifixion

If Jesus is the Bridegroom and the sinful human race is his bride-to-be, when exactly is his wedding day? How does he become married to his bride?

Read Jesus’s answer in Mark 2:19–20 when people asked him why his disciples didn’t fast like John’s disciples and the Pharisees. Why didn’t he just answer the question rather than giving such a cryptic response involving wedding imagery?

How does the understanding of Jewish wedding traditions and definitions of unfamiliar terms like “sons of the bridegroom” and “bridechamber” provide us with a deeper description of the crucifixion? What significance do they convey?

If thousands of Jews both before and after Jesus also died by crucifixion, why was Jesus’s death on the cross any different? Why is his crucifixion the only one in all of history to be described as a marriage? What light does this shed on his true identity and why he died that way?

A number of biblical scholars have concluded that the seamless garment that Jesus wore signifies that he is not just the Messiah, but also a priest. Why is this connection between Jesus’s garment and the priesthood important for us to grasp?


Chapter 5: The End of Time

The author says that although the wedding of the Messiah and his bride begins with the crucifixion, it is not yet fully complete. What does he mean by this?

If the great wedding between God and humanity is underway, but not yet complete, when will its actual fulfillment take place?

In the Jewish tradition, it was the duty of the bridegroom to have a home ready beforehand for his bride—unlike modern times where a couple gets married first and then buys their first home together. How does this shed light on Jesus’s words to his disciples during the Last Supper, when he says, “When I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may also be” (John 14:3)?

To most of us, the word apocalypse means “the catastrophic destruction of the universe.” But the Greek word apokalypsis had a different meaning for ancient Jews. What is that meaning, and how can this transform our understanding of the Apocalypse described in the book of Revelation?

How are the “new Jerusalem” and the “new Israel” described in the Book of Revelation also images of the bride of Christ?

When John says that the bride of Jesus is also a “new temple,” what does this mean?

List the similarities between the Garden of Eden and the “new Eden” John describes in Revelation 22:1–5.

What is the reason for Jesus saying that there will be no more marriage between men and women in the kingdom of heaven?


Chapter 6: The Bridal Mysteries

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that the entire Christian life “bears the mark of the spousal love of Christ and the Church (CCC, 1617).  How can focusing on Jesus the Bridegroom not only shed light on the deeper meaning of his life and death, but also show us the deeper significance of what it means to be a Christian?

What does the sacrament of baptism mean to you? Does it have any significance beyond being an outward sign of turning away from sin or a ritual of being initiated into the Catholic Church? If so, what might it also signify?

What are the similarities of being baptized and the ancient Jewish tradition, the bridal bath?

How has the author’s commentary on the deeper meaning of baptism affected you? List any new insights you may have received. How might your new understanding impact the way you experience your faith on a daily basis?

How does baptism prepare Christians for an even deeper union with Christ in the Eucharist?

For many Christians, the Lord’s Supper is a “memorial” of the Last Supper and the events that occurred on the night Jesus was betrayed. For others, it is a “sacrifice” made present through the bread and wine. What further meaning comes to light if we look at the Eucharist through the lens of Jesus being the Bridegroom and the Church being his bride?

St. John Chrysostom warned against receiving Communion in a state of unrepented grave sin. What did he mean? Why is this more than just “breaking the rules”?

Have you ever thought of the Eucharist as “the sacrament of the Bridegroom and the bride,” as St. John Paul II referred to it? How would this change your experience when you receive Communion?

How does the Christian view of marriage differ for those who see it as a divine institution and those who merely view it as a human institution?

In what ways should a Christian marriage be like the supernatural love between Christ and the Church? How would this look in a practical sense?

Beyond human procreation, what is the highest purpose of Christian marriage?

If you are married, have there been times when you have shared in your spouse’s suffering, out of love? What were the circumstances, and what effect did this have on your spiritual growth?

The author says that the key to understanding the sacraments of baptism, the Eucharist, and marriage as “nuptial mysteries” is to recognize them as “participations in the mysteries of the Jesus’s passion, death, and resurrection. In what ways has this book deepened your understanding of this mysteries and given you a new way of looking at these familiar sacraments?


Chapter 7: Beside the Well with Jesus

The author says that when we recognize Jesus as the Divine Bridegroom, we begin to recognize ourselves as the Samaritan woman. In what ways do you see yourself as the woman at the well?

Explain the meaning of this statement from the Catechism: “Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst with ours.”

Jesus is waiting for us to bring him our brokenness and ask him to give us the gift of his Spirit. What area (or areas) of brokenness are there in your life? What difference might the gift of the Holy Spirit make in these broken places?

As this study draws to a close, what are the top three takeaways you gleaned?


Image Author 101: Ronald Rolheiser

Father Ronald Rolheiser was born in Macklin, Saskatchewan, in 1947, the oldest of twelve children, to George and Matilda Rolheiser.

Ronald’s father George, along with his and other German- Russian families, emigrated from Saratov, Russia to settle, as homesteaders, near the Alberta border. In Canada, the immigrants established a community centered on St. Donatus Church in Cactus Lake, Saskatchewan.  Ronald’s mother Matilda was from a family of homesteaders in a nearby area.  After meeting George at a parish picnic, they married, acquired a farm, near Cactus Lake, within 5 miles of the original Rolheiser homestead.

For Ronald and his siblings, life on a mixed farm included chores before and after school, including seeding and harvesting. Driving farm machinery as a teenager was one of the more enjoyable tasks. The family was active and competitive, playing at the farm and at parish events. Ronald’s love of sports has roots in these family times.

Education was highly valued by the Rolheisers. Excellence was expected and Ron rose to the challenge. He was an impatient scholar, always looking for knowledge and ideas beyond the world he experienced. He shared a love of education and knowledge with his father, and their relationship was based on a strong bond and mutual respect.

Following his school years, Ronald entered the novitiate of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and professed his First Vows in September 1966.  Ordained to the priesthood in 1972, Ronald continued his education, receiving a B.A. (University of Ottawa, 1969), B.Th. (Newman Theological College, 1973), M.A. (University of San Francisco, 1974), M.R.Sc. (University of Louvain, 1982) and Ph.D/STD (University of Louvain, 1982).  During and after his own studies, Father Ronald taught theology and philosophy at Newman Theological College, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

In 1982, while living and studying in Belgium, Fr. Ronald began to write a regular feature column in the Canadian newspaper, The Western Catholic Reporter. The column offered reflections on various theological, church and secular issues.  His first book, The Loneliness Factor was published in 1979.  The Holy Longing, first published in 1999, is a contemporary classic among Christians. His most recent book Sacred Fire is the highly anticipated follow up to The Holy Longing and releases March 2014 from Image.

Fr. Ronald still is very involved in the life of his large extended family, enjoying their annual hiking trips and New Year’s celebrations. Most Christmases you will find him in his home church, St. Donatus, near the former family farm in Cactus Lake, Saskatchewan.  He is also known for his commitment to prayer and exercise, love of sports, sense of humor, loyalty, and his enjoyment of the odd cigar and fine scotch.

Visit Fr. Ronald at

This month we’re giving away 5 copies of Sacred Fire. Simply fill out the form below for a chance to win!


Discussion Questions: Sacred Fire by Ronald Rolheiser

Download the discussion questions for individual reflection or group use for Sacred Fire by clicking here.

Ronald Rolheiser’s contemporary classic book The Holy Longing turns 15 years old in 2014. Used for years to challenge the depths of our soul, this book has shaped and influenced the lives of countless people seeking to better understand their faith.  Now, Father Rolheiser continues his search for an accessible and penetrating Christian spirituality in the highly anticipated follow-up to The Holy Longing in his brand new book Sacred Fire.

He asks and answers the question: “How do I live beyond my own heartaches, headaches, and obsessions so as to help make other peoples’ lives more meaningful?” and re-frames discipleship within a contemporary context and language that is practical for Christians in today’s world. Ultimately, he demonstrates how identifying and embracing three specific stages of the spiritual life will lead to new heights of spiritual awareness.

Read the first chapter of Sacred Fire by clicking here.

Download the discussion questions for individual reflection or group use by clicking here.

Day of the Little Way – Resources for Bloggers

Image Books loves bloggers!

We want to partner with Catholic bloggers to offer you resources, free books, and support for your blogging endeavors by inviting you to join the free Blogging for Books program. This free program offers you a book of your choice in exchange for an honest review. Couldn’t be easier than that!

Here are some great ways Catholic bloggers can help support the Day of the Little Way:

Blog Content

Post an excerpt. Embed an excerpt of Three Gifts of Therese of Lisieux by Patrick Ahern on your
blog or website.

Review the book. Receive a free copy of Three Gifts of Therese of Lisieux to review on your site by joining Blogging For

Share or comment on this article. Recently, the Catholic News Agency ran this article by the Colorado Catholic Herald’s Bill Howard about the Day of the Little Way. Link to the article on your blog, or write a blog post reacting to the announcement of this movement.


Gifts of Gratitude

On Feb. 4th, Image Books will offer surprise gifts to randomly selected #LittleWay participants all day long! These gifts are our way of saying thank you for joining us in this unprecedented effort of unity and faith on social media. We’ll offer copies of The Three Gifts of Therese of Lisieux, Maurice and Therese, and The Autobiography of Therese of Lisieux throughout the day, as well as gifts themed around St. Therese of Lisieux.


Important Pieces

#LittleWay – Use this hashtag on every tweet you send on Feb. 4. Remember, we can only get this
trending if we all use this hashtag!

@ImageCatholic – Follow us on Twitter and join the conversation. – Create your free account now and request a copy of Three Gifts of
Therese of Lisieux by Patrick Ahern to review on your blog.

Click here to see designed graphics you can share to help promote the Day of the Little Way.

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